While I read (finally) the Lost and Founds recently, I'm starting with them because I had meant to read them before the last GRL. Yeah. We see how that goes.
First, let me back up (because some days are not for linear thinking) and say that these are not romance, even though they get stuck in romance categories. Or perhaps they are, but not in the modern, boy-meets-boy sense. Except that they are. Wait. this isn't working.
The Lost and Founds are roman in the old sense of the word - quests of self discovery, fraught with pitfalls for the soul and sometimes perceived physical peril. They are, indeed, love stories with what we hope will be happily ever afters, but not the kind where the two principle characters stay together. They are about a love that has more to do with giving of the self than sex.
They are profoundly moving, profoundly silly, incredible in the leaps of faith and suspension of disbelief we, as readers, must navigate, and yet the quixotic nature of the story arcs don't distance us from the journey. It draws us in, captures us in helpless wonder, tugs us forward another step and another step until we read slack-jawed and shattered, broken and laughing.
King Perry is about a man who has repressed grief, tamped down on it so hard that he doesn't even recognize it any longer, hiding it behind a veneer of businessman and civil, appropriate behavior. King Mai is about a man who uses his anger to keep the world at a distance while insisting on self-fulfilling prophecies of doom. But both books, and the entire series, are equally about the enigmatic Vin Vanbly (not his real name.) The series of stories are told out of order, backwards and inside-out, so that both the mythology of the Found Kings and Vin himself are revealed slowly, since they are inextricably intertwined. Vin is the anomaly in every situation, the perpetual outsider. He sees himself as one of the Lost Ones, and yet his compassion and his love, we begin to understand, have been the catalyst for so many other men to regain their Found kingship over the years.
When we meet Vin in King Perry, he's well-versed in how these King Weekends should go. Manipulative, scheming, not always ethical, Vin should strike us as dangerous and maybe a little creepy. But he doesn't. We're inside his brain and we're rooting for him. Edmond gives us just enough of his history, his intentions that we see his goofy charm, his moments of doubt, his tenacious drive to stay on task, to succeed in showing Perry what he needs to see to be whole again. But this is Vin at his most confident. He's been doing this for a while and he's pretty sure he has everything figured out. The human heart is an odd thing, and he recognizes that his plans may fall flat, but he has all the tricks up his sleeve carefully in line. The ultimate event planner.
In King Mai, we meet a younger and less experienced Vin. Sure, he's done this before, but he's still making mistakes, still figuring this out. The tenacity, the compassion, the manic drive are all there, but not quite the smooth delivery we see in King Perry. Now that we know the series will be six stories - since we're getting bits of King Daniel online and we see that Daniel will be the spider silk that holds these stories together - I suspect that the order of the stories has as much to do with a deconstruction of Vin as it does with the individual journeys.
Vin is...well, there's a lot of Edmond in Vin. He might be disturbed to hear that, but I think he knows. The quirky sense of humor, the head tilted way of looking at the world, the ability to see differently - these are all Edmond things. That's not surprising, of course. All of our characters carry bits of ourselves since they spring from our brains. But I can't help seeing Edmond when Vin speaks, even though I know they're not the same. Edmond is fun to hang out with, to talk to. With Vin, I'd probably always wonder what he was planning.
Long story short - I don't read contemporary romance. I just don't enjoy it. But these are stories of miracles and wonder. I'm completely hooked. Waiting for The Butterfly King and for October and for all of us to find our way home.